Why All Marketers Suck!

April 24, 2010

Why do all marketers suck? The quick answer is that they actually don’t suck. We just think that they suck. This post is all about the increasing marketing dilemma in most expansion stage companies.

Historical Expectations for a Marketing Department

The key issue is that the roles and responsibilities in a leading edge marketing department have gotten to the point where there is a great number of very different functional expectations for the marketing department and it is nearly impossible for the marketing department to fill those expectations.

Think about it. When the functions originally got created, here is what happened:

  • People quickly figured out that they needed to make a product and created the product development, operations, and delivery groups.
  • Then they figured out that the needed to sell the product, so sales was created.
  • Then they determined out that they needed to keep track of the money, so finance was created.
  • Then customers started calling with issues, so customer service was created.
  • As they grew and things became more complex, HR, Legal, IT, and Administration were created. All had very specific roles and the functions work relatively well.

Everything else? It went to marketing. Marketing is the “other bucket” where anything that does not fit in another department goes.

In the early days, it was easy for marketing. Write up some brochures, write up some advertisements, place them in the media. Get the media to write about the products and perhaps have some events or participate in events hosted by others. Perhaps they became slightly more complicated with direct mail and/or telemarketing, but that was about as complex as it got.

The Realities of a Modern Marketing Organization

Then things got more complex for marketing. Over time, writing, graphics, audio and video, competitive advantage messaging, and other more creative specialties developed. Placement became more sophisticated as geographic markets grew and the number of media opportunities grew as well.

The net was that marketing departments started hiring advertising, public relations, research, and other professional services firms, who developed a lot of the specialties and the marketing departments concentrated more on marketing strategy. The marketing department was responsible for lots of spending through their agencies, but didn’t have many people on their internal staff.

Then came even more complexity, as markets subdivided and became more competitive, the Internet and telephone deregulation created opportunities for more channels to access the target audience and a much better opportunity to measure results from just about anything. More complexity, more analytics!

Now, as multi-channel, multi-form marketing and the ability to go from one-way to two-way communications with a target audience continues to take off, things have become even more complex.

Also, the target audience participants have a significant number of vehicles to connect with each other (e.g., Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, discussion groups, YouTube) and they use them to talk about everything and anything. Love a product, then talk about it. Perhaps even make a YouTube video about it. Hate a product or have a service situation. Talk about it even more. Also, the hate messages are much more interesting so they get passed around a lot!

At this point, the marketing department’s job is almost an impossible job and it seems to be getting following an exponential complexity growth curve:

  • The marketer must be the most creative, but also the most analytical. Now, the creative must be creative but it also must work… the numbers will show the results!
  • They must be able to communicate with increasingly fragmented target market segments, ultimately 1-to-1. This term has been around since the ’90s, and it is more and more being realized.
  • They must be able to communicate through increasingly diverse communication (marketing and influence) channels.
  • They must be able to assist increasingly diverse sales channels, both direct and indirect.
  • They must be real time and agile rather than just planning campaigns a year or more in advance. Campaign not working? The metrics show it and the marketers must change it now!
  • They must be the publisher (see: content marketing) but also figure out how to influence without appearing overly advertising oriented so that the market conversation (that they don’t control) stays as positive as possible on the company and its products.
  • And, they must do this while positioning and differentiating their products in increasingly fragmented markets with an increasing numbers of competitors.

But wait. This is just the post-product development activities!

From the pre-product perspective, the marketers must figure out:

  • what the customer needs in increasingly fragmented markets
  • how an increasing number of competitors meet (or don’t meet) the needs of the target segments and where their strengths and weaknesses lie in both their product and their go-to-market strategies
  • how their products need to become to be more differentiated and add more unique value to the target market. Find the narrowing white space and fill it!

Also, marketers are asked questions about everything associated with the markets. Competitor product and sales and marketing information. Market share information. Customer needs information. Market size and market map information. Want to know anything about the market. Ask Marketing. They are supposed to know!

Finally, if the company doesn’t have Strategy, Business Development, or Corporate Development functions, ask marketing for help. They are supposed to be doing all of these other things well and these issues are functionally similar, so they should be able to help.

So, why do all Marketers suck?

For the same reason that Michael Jordan sucked at professional baseball but was one of the greatest basketball players of all time. There are too many things that a marketer needs to be great at. There has only been one Jim Thorpe and there are very few if any marketers that can be great at all of these functions!

Founder & Partner

As the founder of OpenView, Scott focuses on distinctive business models and products that uniquely address a meaningful market pain point. This includes a broad interest in application and infrastructure companies, and businesses that are addressing the next generation of technology, including SaaS, cloud computing, mobile platforms, storage, networking, IT tools, and development tools.